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KITTERY, Maine — When the creators of the Kittery Food Truck Pod began dabbling around for industry advice, they were told their biggest problem could be, quite frankly, “getting too slammed.”
The incoming wave of outdoor eaters, arriving with the sweltering summer months, will soon take over what Barbara Jenny is calling a “paved paradise for gastrogathering.” It’s the parking lot adjacent to the town’s affectionately known “mural building,” just past the Memorial Traffic Circle, housing Lost Coast, Nest, Portland Mural Initiative, Good Luck Studio and Bring on the Chi Massage.
The pod will be rotating, with three trucks serving at a time throughout late spring and summer and into the fall. It opened Monday with El Rodeo Go, a Portland-based authentic Mexican street food truck.
Jenny and her husband, Matt Beebe, own the property, and for years talked about what they could do to bring life to the lot, mirroring that of the fun and creativity that inhabits the nearby building.
“Part of our family went to Austin, Texas, for a vacation and visited a couple of food truck parks in crappy parking lots,” Jenny said. “We said to ourselves, ‘Well, we have a crappy parking lot.’”
Simultaneously, Matt’s daughter and Jenny’s stepdaughter, Liz Beebe, her husband, Brahm Bourque, and friend Gabe Jensen were looking at a “shift in plans.” They came by way of the West Coast back to the Seacoast, with the hopes of starting their own food truck business.
Bourque was managing a restaurant in Los Angeles, while Jensen had run a food truck in Portland, Oregon. Liz Beebe is famous in certain circles as the lead singer of Dustbowl Revival, an eclectic Americana band out of Los Angeles.
“We had an idea we wanted to own something of our own, so we partnered up,” Bourque said. “Gabe has always been making the best food for me. We wanted to be closer to family, too. So during the past year, we’ve been working on it, designing a menu. It’s a new adventure.”
Tacocat will be the anchor truck at the pod, serving six days a week at the pod.
“LA was an epicenter of amazing tacos,” Bourque said. “When we landed on that idea, I wanted to make sure it represented where we were for the last 15 years, and something fun and accessible. We’re not taking ourselves too seriously, it’s supposed to be fun.”
They’ll start with chicken, shrimp, carnitas, and squash and mushroom tacos. In addition to serving at the Kittery Food Truck Pod, they plan to travel when opportunities arise. They’ve already been already selected as one of the trucks to serve food at the Worth Lot concert in June in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
“We’re really excited about the pod and being able to be part of the family crew,” Bourque said.
“Kittery was so open and willing to take this adventure with us,” Liz Beebe said. “There aren’t really a lot of food trucks out here and being from LA, we saw how much it adds to the community environment, and getting people outside together.”
Tacocat specifically has partnered with a credit card company that takes a portion of fees from transactions and donates them to Kittery nonprofit Fair Tide, which provides housing and social services to vulnerable people.
Other trucks the pod has locked down so far include Vagabond Coffee Car, a mobile coffee truck that runs on eco-diesel serving the coffee, teas and fresh-pressed juices all wrapped up in a classic 1949 International Harvester; Pam & Fam Forkin’ Good Grub, savory comfort food like garbage fries and bacon jam grilled cheese; and El Rodeo Go.
Jenny said they’ve also been contacted by a barbecue truck, a man who serves fresh-squeezed lemonade, and possibly a flower cart. They’ll continue to grow the vendor list as the season progresses. Their website ( kitteryfoodtruckpod.com) will have an updated calendar showing which trucks will be serving each day. Interested food truck operators are encouraged to visit the website and contact Jenny.
“We hope to see it busy, lots of happy people,” Jenny said. “We’re trying to make it so even though it’s a cruddy parking lot, people are comfortable, willing to hang out, stay a while. It is pavement, but I think that’s part of the fun of the project. It’s not even possible to go for slick here. We’re going to be real, hopefully fun.”
They hope to see a good mix of locals and tourists, and hopefully very busy Fridays and Sundays as vacationers travel to and from their destinations.
On site, they have live-edge wooden picnic tables and homemade bar-height towers. Eaters are encouraged to bring beach chairs, their dogs, and maybe even a guitar to get a little live music going. There will also be blacktop chalk and games, such as cornhole.
“I think people are going to want to try it all,” Liz Beebe said of the trucks.
Jenny hopes the foot traffic will also translate over into the mural building’s businesses after people are done eating, where there are unique treasures, antique housewares, records, resale clothing and more.
Across the bridge, where Jenny lives, she and her husband are in the midst of a state Supreme Court fight with the city of Portsmouth over their Airbnb rental. Unlike that experience with city officials, Jenny said her interactions with the Planning Department in Kittery were nothing but “refreshing.”
“When I first walked in the door at planning, the first thing somebody said to me was, ‘Let’s see how we can make this work,’” Jenny said.
The Kittery Food Truck Pod is a Sustainable Seacoast restaurant member, and will be free of single-use plastics, she said.